August 2016 | Nithin Rao

World stage beckons

With its focus on the aerospace and defence industries, Tata Advanced Systems is going all the way to realise its ambitions, while staying in step with the Make in India initiative

The aerospace and defence sectors are critical for any country aspiring to join the ranks of industrially advanced nations. These are spheres where high technology is the differentiator and human know-how the separator of champions from also-rans.

Tata Advanced Systems has partnered Sikorsky to make fuselages for its helicopters at a greenfield plant in Hyderabad

The Tata group strengthened its position in the aerospace and defence industries with the establishment of Tata Advanced Systems (TASL) in 2007. The company’s twin objectives were, from the very start: maximum self-reliance and a focus on indigenisation.

“We follow a two-fold approach,” says Sukaran Singh, TASL’s chief executive. “One, to work with the best global original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) as partners and feeders to their supply chains, by meeting world-class standards of delivery and quality. And two, to develop indigenous capabilities to meet the requirements of India’s defence forces.”

"The Make in India initiative of the government," says Mr Singh, "is aligned with our approach. We are participating in various ventures, and are already in a key position with some of the acquisition programmes.”

One example is the initiative to replace the Avro planes used by the Indian Air Force. TASL is partnering Airbus to manufacture the modern C295 aircraft. “It is a path-breaking opportunity for the private sector in India to develop significant capabilities in the domain, while collaborating with a leading global OEM,” explains Mr Singh. “This would definitely be a key milestone in the journey for the Indian aerospace industry.”

TASL is already a joint venture partner with Sikorsky to make fuselages for the aerospace company’s S-92 helicopters at a greenfield plant in Hyderabad. The high quality of the fuselages has won recognition for the Tata group, with the American Helicopter Society bestowing an award for the quality and performance of equipment from the Hyderabad facility.

As TASL sees it, programmes of this kind are essential to bring in a positive impact, impetus and a sense of urgency to move towards indigenisation. They will not only help India fulfil its demands in the aerospace and defence domains, but also offer globally competitive products, made in India, to international markets.

In some ways, TASL has already been delivering on the Make in India promise by working with global OEMs such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Pilatus and Rolls-Royce, meeting their stringent quality and performance levels, and by implementing manufacturing projects in India for export.

“Such performance has ensured that we achieve award-winning sole supplier positions in the global supply chains of these global organisations,” says Mr Singh.

Besides the OEMs, TASL works at various levels and on multiple programmes with the laboratories under the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), as well as other institutions.

“We are partnering DRDO to develop and make command and control subsystems of a surface-to-air weapon system,” adds Mr Singh. “We have worked on complex designs and materials and have been able to take the subsystems through a stringent qualification and acceptance process, and have supported the successful first flight of the system.”

Another noteworthy initiative is in avionics. TASL and CSIR-National Aerospace Laboratories have signed a memorandum of understanding to develop a state-of-the-art mission computer as a collaborative effort, and to take this product to the global market after incorporating application-specific upgrades and getting airworthiness approvals.

The integrated global bus avionics processing systems were designed, developed and integrated for the first time in India by CSIR-NAL, Bengaluru, for civil avionics requirements.“The objective of our partnership is to develop the mission computer, a key electronic system on air and defence platforms for subsystem integration and control, and manufacture it in India for Indian and global markets,” says Mr Singh.

The approach on Indian defence procurement is also changing to support the initiative, says Mr Singh. Increasingly, the focus is to seek players in India, with capabilities to make and deliver products and services, and who also have the industrial and financial wherewithal to develop capabilities in partnership with global OEMs, rather than to import them.

Additionally, Indian industry is expected to develop solutions by way of R&D, technology partnerships and collaborations, in order to create capabilities for the future. “We believe in the capabilities that we have built and are building further,” says Mr Singh. “We are creating a strong base for making in India, for India and for the world.”

Top class and homemade
Tata Advanced Systems (TASL) is committed to develop, produce and bring to its customers the best of products and solutions in the aerospace and defence domains.

TASL is investing in developing indigenous capabilities in several crucial areas, such as missile systems and subsystems, radar systems and subsystems, command and control systems, aerospace and aero-structures, unmanned aerial systems, optronics, and homeland security solutions.

Examples include:

  • Initiatives in unmanned aerial vehicles.
  • Collaboration with the National Aerospace Laboratories to develop and ‘productise’ the mission computer.
  • The proposed full military radar final assembly, where TASL has offered to partner Terma, a Danish defence and aerospace player.
  • The milestones achieved in making some of the more sensitive structural parts in India’s key missile programmes.
  • The successful systems integration achieved in command and control systems for missile projects.

This article is part of the special report on the evolution and future of the concept of 'Make in India' in Tata companies, featured in the April 2016 issue of Tata Review:
Overview: Transforming India
India on the march
Tata Motors: Pathway pioneer
Tata Chemicals: Innovation attention
Titan Company: Time to watch this space
Tata Elxsi: Design rules
TAL Manufacturing Solutions: Source code